HIGH POINT, N.C. -- People can change -- just ask Chad Keever and Ali Robinson about how they have turned their lives around.
They were once considered two of High Point’s most violent offenders, but that's no longer the case.
The men have left a life of crime behind thanks to High Point Community Against Violence. It is a citizen-run non-profit group that enhances the work of the Violent Crimes Task Force. Together, their efforts are making High Point a safer place to live.
“I started selling drugs at 18. Next thing I know, I was 35 and got shot and went to prison," Keever said. "I said it was time to change my life after 23 years.”
“Before I met this program, I was going down the wrong path and I felt like the world owed me and stuff,” said Robinson.
Both men were living a life of crime, but now they are walking the straight and narrow.
Jim Summey, the Executive Director of High Point Community Against Violence said the program teaches convicts skills to turn their lives around.
“Patience, I learned how to be patient and that’s a wonderful tool to have,” Robinson said. They also learn carpentry, so they can make an honest living.
Robinson and Keever accepted help from High Point Community Against Violence after the Violent Crimes Task Force told them if they reoffend their case would be fast-tracked for prosecution. “
What we have found is that it’s not necessarily the severity of the punishment, but rather the certainty of the punishment that gets the deterrence effect for us,” said Captain Timothy Ellenberger, who is the head of the Major Crimes Division at the High Point Police Department. According to Ellenberger, High Point Police formed the Violent Crimes Task Force during the late '90s, and, since then, violent crimes have decreased by 65 percent.
“They said a gun would get me 25 years to life and I said, 'Oh, I don’t want nothing to do with that,'” Keever said.
According to Summey, “If you pick the violent crime offenders, the ones that are really causing the community problems, and you sit them down and tell them that they are wrong. And you turn right around and say we know you are wrong, and we want to tell you -- you are wrong, but we would also like to offer you something to turn your life around so you can move forward and live a positive life. They usually want to take that opportunity.”
For both Keever and Robinson, the program has not only changed their lives. It may have also saved them.
“Back in the day, when I was younger, I never would have thought I would make it to this age now," Robinson said. "But I did by the grace of God. He kept me and put these people in my life for a reason and I did.”
Because police efforts have been so successful in reducing violence in High Point, other departments around the country are modeling their programs after High Point’s, according to Ellenberger.
The High Point Community Against Violence received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for the state of North Carolina.
If you would like to get involved in their efforts, you can visit www.hpcav.com.